Chief of Strategic Planning Echos John Kerry on Terrorism

UPI reports that the chief of strategic planning on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff is sounding a lot like John Kerry when discussing terrorism:

The United States should rethink the label it uses for what is known as the “global war on terror,” the chief of strategic planning on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff said Tuesday.

What is needed, said Army Col. Gary Cheek, is to recast terrorists as the criminals they are.

“If we can change the name … and find the right sequence of events that allows us to do that, that changes the dynamic of the conflict,” said Cheek at the Defense Forum Washington, sponsored by the Marine Corps Association and the U.S. Naval Institute.

“It makes sense for us to find another name for the GWOT,” said Cheek. “It merits rethinking. I know our European allies are more comfortable articulating issues of terrorism as criminal threats, rather than war … It ought to be our goal to partner better with the European allies so we can migrate this from a war to something other than a war.”

The “war” moniker elevates al-Qaida and other transnational terrorists, giving them legitimacy as an opposition force to the United States. It also tends to alienate Muslim populations in other countries, who see the war as a war on Islam, and feel they need to support al-Qaida as a matter of defending their faith.

It also tends to frame the fight as one in which the Defense Department has the primary role, when it is becoming increasingly clear that the “long war” against global terrorism is going to be won on other fronts — economic, political, diplomatic, financial. Other government agencies and departments must become more engaged; only they have the expertise to help other countries take the actions necessary to defeat terrorists.

The political implications of this is noted, including how this undermines one of the favorite attacks from Republicans while repeating John Kerry’s advice:

And one of their chief attacks on Democrats is their alleged preference to manage terrorism as a law enforcement problem rather than being serious about defeating them in a war.

It’s a tactic borrowed from President George W. Bush himself. Campaigning for his second term in 2004, Bush hit that theme often, attacking Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry for saying the war on terror was “far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering law enforcement operation.”

Bush responded: “After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and supporters declared war on the United States of America — and war is what they got.”

But a little more than a year later, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers said in a speech at the National Press Club he had objected to the use of the term “war on terrorism” because it causes people to think that the military is the solution.

Perhaps it is time for Bush to listen to those who understand the problem. Of course Bush’s failure to do so has been at the heart of our problems from the beginning.

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